Go Deep in One Place

March 21st, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Go Deep in One Place
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Franciscan philosopher-theologian John Duns Scotus’ idea of “thisness” mirrors Jesus leaving the ninety-nine sheep and going after the one (Luke 15:4). And, just like Jesus, Duns Scotus holds that precious, irreplaceable “one” fully inside a “commonwealth” or community, the Body of Christ. Duns Scotus does not teach individualism but incarnation. The universal incarnation always shows itself in the specific, the concrete, and the particular—refusing to be an abstraction. Poet Christian Wiman puts it this way: “If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self.” [1]

The doctrine of haecceity is saying that we come to universal meaning deeply and rightly through the unique and ordinary, not the other way around, which is the great danger of all the ideologies (overarching and universal explanations) that have plagued our world in the last century. Everything in the universe is a holon and a fractal, where the part replicates the whole. Go deep in any one place and we will meet all places where the divine image is present.

When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and -isms, we too-often stay there and argue about theory and generalizations. At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to love humanity, but not any one person in particular. We defend principles of justice, but would not put ourselves out to live justly.

This takes different forms on the Left and on the Right, to put it in political terms. Liberals are often devoted to political correctness and get authoritarian about process and semantics. Conservatives can be overly loyal to their validating group for its own sake and become authoritarian about its symbols, defining and defending the rules and rights of membership in that group. Both sides risk becoming “word police” and “symbol protectors” instead of actually changing the world—or themselves—by offering the healing energy of love.

Sometimes neither group ever gets to concrete acts of charity, mercy, liberation, or service. We just argue about theory and proper definitions. I have done this myself. Duns Scotus offered us a meaningful and practical way to live compassionately by focusing on the now, the particular, the concrete, the individual. His entire philosophy makes love, and the will to love in a particular way, more important than intellect, understanding, or any theories about love or justice. As we say, the rubber must hit the road.

Start with loving one situation or one person all the way through. That is the best—and maybe the only—first school for universal love.

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Identified or Simply Interested?
By Oswald Chambers

I have been crucified with Christ… —Galatians 2:20

The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ….” He did not say, “I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,” or, “I will really make an effort to follow Him” —but— “I have been identified with Him in His death.” Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the Cross is accomplished in me. My unrestrained commitment of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to grant to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.
“…it is no longer I who live….” My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.
“…and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh— the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God….” This faith was not Paul’s own faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith the Son God had given to him (see Ephesians 2:8). It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits— a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

Thisness – 75 Years of Life

March 20th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Thisness Richard Rohr 

75 Years of Life

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

(Spring Equinox)
I was born 75 years ago today. I know 75 is a somewhat arbitrary number, yet our culture has assigned it some significance. CAC staff encouraged me to share my journey, and they sifted through old photo albums to illustrate my very human path. So today I offer a few reflections from my own “particular” life. I hope you, too, can see in your life your own unique manifestation of the image and likeness of God, each of us “crying what I do is me: for that I came” in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ words.
In 1943, in the midst of World War II, it cost Mom and Dad exactly $44.19 to birth me at St. Francis (auspicious!) Hospital in Topeka, Kansas. The immediate circumcision then cost another full $2.00. I received my first initiation rite very inexpensively indeed! It seems like Mom was much more initiated than I was in her many hours of labor.
My parents laminated the check they wrote to pay the bill for my birth; I still have it and look at it with soft joy. The entire amount—$46.19—covered a week in the hospital, during which I had full nursing and cuddling privileges from Mom and extracurricular care from a whole staff of Sisters of Charity in angelic white habits. No wonder I am so spoiled and like to think I am God’s favorite!
Daddy wrote at the bottom of the check “Baby Dickie.” He did not want me called Junior, since he had given me his own name of Richard. So I was always known as Dickie at home and by close friends throughout the years.

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I had a very happy boyhood in Kansas—right down the road from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz—building forts, rafts, and treehouses. I spent idyllic summers on my cousins’ farm in Ellis County, which was boring flat land to most people. There I first learned to love and honor animals.

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I always enjoyed growing things and watching sunsets across the Great Plains. We boys would jump stark naked into golden silos of grain, screaming with delight. (I hope you did not eat any Kansas bread made anywhere around 1953!) I would often lie on a soft patch of green grass at night and look at the stars in wonder. I called this my “Beautiful Spot,” a place too sacred and intimate for me to talk about until now.
I was a “B” student in school because I usually wrote down my thoughts rather than what the teachers actually said. This was even more true at Duns Scotus College in Michigan where I studied philosophy for four years and at St. Leonard College in Ohio (affiliated with the theology department of the University of Dayton). My young Franciscan professors had brought back the latest biblical and theological scholarship from European universities. Many were in Rome during the momentous Second Vatican Council, and they passed onto their pupils what they learned and experienced. We were not so much taught theological conclusions as the process of getting there. I received a full history of the development of Christian ideas more than Catholic apologetics.
Little did I imagine how this would affect my entire life and my own approach to theology. The inspired documents of Vatican II put the Gospel back at the center of our lives, just as St. Francis tried to do. This made spirituality so much more alive and real than the narrow churchiness I grew up with—and that many are still taught to this day. After the fearful reaction to Vatican II in these past decades, I’m grateful to have lived to see Pope Francis, who convinces me of the wonderfully crooked lines of God. How did he ever get elected? Pope Francis is showing us all that God’s full life, just like nature, is never a straight line and never a dead end.
I was ordained in 1970 in my home parish in Topeka. The church was built on the spot where the Pentecostal movement began in 1900; the first recorded modern phenomenon of speaking in tongues was heard there on New Year’s Eve of 1901. The old mansion was soon called “Stone’s Folly” and the Pentecostals left Kansas for Azusa Street in Los Angeles, where folks were more accustomed to other languages than English. Images from the first Pentecost (fire, which no one controls, and wind, which seems to come from nowhere) reveal the wildness of the Spirit that has guided and driven my life—with plenty of resistance on my part—all of these wonderful years.

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A woman held up the receiving line after my ordination ceremony to tell me a local Pentecostal story. I was irritated; she was interfering with my centrality and many others were in line. I tried to hurry her along, but nevertheless she persisted. And by she, I mean both this particular woman and the Holy Spirit—who has never given up on me. The Spirit has always persisted in drawing and pushing me, despite my many personal limitations, my unfaithfulness with what was given to me, and the many times I passionately believed my own message while also denying it in practice.

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The Good News has always been too good to be true and too big to be absorbed by “me,” my small and separate self. My trials were mostly interior, intellectual, spiritual, relational, and emotional “cliffs of fall,” as poet Hopkins called them. A few cancer scares, my recent heart attack, hate letters, and cruel accusations over the years were a walk in the park in comparison. (I’m currently going through cardiac rehab—and hopefully taking good care of my heart—any way that you want to understand that!) I’m deeply grateful for God’s patience and tenderness with my self-doubt and insecurity during all this time. I wish I could always be the same with others.
This one Holy Spirit has moved through all of us over time—creating the Franciscans and the Second Vatican Council for Catholics, the Baptism in the Spirit for many Protestants, deep mystical movements in all faith traditions, and a growing recognition, as St. Thomas Aquinas often wrote, “If something is true, no matter who said it, it is always from the Holy Spirit.” [1] In time, I could not help but see the many faces of Christ and the Spirit in serene Hindus, native peoples in love with the natural world, my socially conscious Jewish friends, profound Buddhist wisdom, Sufi God-lovers, and, of course, in loving Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants of every stripe, often in spite of their denomination or theology rather than because of it.

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Like the wind, the Spirit blows where it will (John 3:8). There has been more than enough wind at my back—and more than enough seeing and encountering of Love—for all of these 75 years. All of it was given, never acquired, merited, or even fully understood. I just stumbled into Love again and again. And was held by it.
This is entirely true for you, too. I know you are part of this same windstorm, this same seeing, or you would not have bothered to read this short memoir. I am so glad that we have been on this same earth at this same wonderful and terrible time. I humbly thank you for your trust.

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Friendship with God

By Oswald Chambers

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…? —Genesis 18:17

The Delights of His Friendship. Genesis 18 brings out the delight of true friendship with God, as compared with simply feeling His presence occasionally in prayer. This friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. Once he does, you must stop immediately.

The Difficulties of His Friendship. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He stopped because he still was lacking the level of intimacy in his relationship with God, which would enable him boldly to continue on with the Lord in prayer until his desire was granted. Whenever we stop short of our true desire in prayer and say, “Well, I don’t know, maybe this is not God’s will,” then we still have another level to go. It shows that we are not as intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as Jesus would have us to be— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). Think of the last thing you prayed about— were you devoted to your desire or to God? Was your determination to get some gift of the Spirit for yourself or to get to God? “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). The reason for asking is so you may get to know God better. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). We should keep praying to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.

Thisness

March 19th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Irreplaceable “Thisness”
Sunday, March 18, 2018

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same;
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying what I do is me: for that I came.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins [1]

Franciscan philosopher-theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) taught extensively on the absolute uniqueness of each act of creation. His doctrine of haecceity is derived from haec, the Latin word for “this.” Duns Scotus said the absolute freedom of God allows God to create, or not to create, each creature. Its existence means God has positively chosen to create that creature, precisely as it is.

Each creature is thus not merely one member of a genus and species, but a unique aspect of the infinite Mystery of God. God is continuously choosing each created thing specifically to exist, moment by moment. This teaching alone made Duns Scotus a favorite of mystics and poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Merton, who both considered themselves “Scotists”—as do I. I studied this largely unknown genius for four years in college, which is why I quote him so often.

Duns Scotus taught that you cannot know something spiritually by saying it is a not-that, by negation or distinguishing it from something else. You can only know anything by meeting it in its precise and irreplaceable thisness and honoring it there. Each individual act of creation is a once-in-eternity choice on God’s part. The direct implication of this truth is that love must precede all true knowledge, which was at the heart of all Franciscan-based philosophy.

In a word, this is contemplation: to look at reality with a primary gaze of love. Contemplation has been described as “a long, loving look at the Real.” [2] Nondual consciousness is learning how to be present to what is right in front of me, to the Now, exactly as it is, without splitting or dividing it, without judgment, analysis, or resistance. We must say yes before we offer any no!

In other words, our mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment, just as it is. This allows us to say, “Just this,” and love things in themselves, as themselves, and by themselves, regardless of how they benefit or make demands on us. Is there any other way to truly love anything?

Spiritual knowledge is to know things subject to subject (I-Thou), whereas rational knowing is to know things subject to object (I-it). There is, of course, a place for both; but most people have never been taught how to see in this deeper, nondual way, center to center and subject to subject—and that is the seeing that changes our lives.

The Scandal of the Particular
Monday, March 19, 2018

That Christ’s incarnation occurred improbably, ridiculously, at such-and-such a time, into such-and-such a place, is referred to—with great sincerity even among believers—as “the scandal of particularity.” Well, the “scandal of particularity” is the only world that I, in particular, know. What use has eternity for light? We’re all up to our necks in this particular scandal. —Annie Dillard [1]
Theologians call the principle of concrete-to-universal knowing “the scandal of particularity.” John Duns Scotus asserted that God only created particulars and individuals, a quality he named “thisness” (haecceity). Thisness grounds the principle of incarnation in the concrete and the specific. You can’t really love universals. It’s hard to love concepts, forces, or ideas. Ideology is just the ego wrapping itself around such abstractions.
Love—God incarnate—always begins with particulars: this woman, this dog, this beetle, this Moses, this Virgin Mary, this Jesus of Nazareth. It is the individual and the concrete that opens the heart space to an I-Thou encounter. Without it there is no true devotion or faith, but only argumentative theories.
Why is “thisness” so good and important? To begin with, such thinking was a breakthrough in the hierarchical Middle Ages, when the top and the center were considered most important. Any writing about a commoner’s life was very rare at that time. The concept of the individual apart from the group had not yet been born, despite Jesus’ talk of leaving the ninety-nine to search for the one (Luke 15:4). Kings and queens, the papacy, the office of the bishop, and nationhood were far more important than anything small, local, immediate, concrete, or specific. “My king is better than your king” and “my religion is the only true one” substituted for personal transformation or the sense that God was engaged with the individual and ordinary soul (which is precisely mysticism). The corporate, collective identity was preferred to a person’s own soul. Without truly seeing and valuing individual lives, war and violence become almost inevitable. Unless we can see and honor “thisness,” religion and politics are up in the head, and the heart and body will remain untouched.
Duns Scotus fully and happily live inside the communal Body of Christ, while still preserving and honoring the importance of the individual. He is an amazing example of bridging the gap. I find it most rare in our postmodern society on both the Left and the Right. He held onto the individual end of the continuum so strongly (almost unheard of in the 13th century) that some churchmen have accused him of actually fathering Western individualism! In truth, Duns Scotus held the entire continuum together—both part and whole—with such refined consciousness that he was very early dubbed “The Subtle Doctor” of the Church. We could use such subtlety today.

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Abraham’s Life of Faith
By Oswald Chambers

He went out, not knowing where he was going. —Hebrews 11:8

In the Old Testament, a person’s relationship with God was seen by the degree of separation in that person’s life. This separation is exhibited in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and his family. When we think of separation today, we do not mean to be literally separated from those family members who do not have a personal relationship with God, but to be separated mentally and morally from their viewpoints. This is what Jesus Christ was referring to in Luke 14:26.
Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason— a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.
The final stage in the life of faith is the attainment of character, and we encounter many changes in the process. We feel the presence of God around us when we pray, yet we are only momentarily changed. We tend to keep going back to our everyday ways and the glory vanishes. A life of faith is not a life of one glorious mountaintop experience after another, like soaring on eagles’ wings, but is a life of day-in and day-out consistency; a life of walking without fainting (see Isaiah 40:31). It is not even a question of the holiness of sanctification, but of something which comes much farther down the road. It is a faith that has been tried and proved and has withstood the test. Abraham is not a type or an example of the holiness of sanctification, but a type of the life of faith— a faith, tested and true, built on the true God. “Abraham believed God…” (Romans 4:3).

Wonder

March 16th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Wonder

Richard Rohr

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thank you Lord for all you’ve made. Thank you for the trees, flowers, butterflies, animals, and people you have created in your image. Thank you for letting me share in the joy of your beautiful creation. Your light shines bright in my heart and I will do your will to protect the paradise of Earth. Thank you for blessing me with the gift of the world and making me in your image and creating me with the beauty of all things you made. I am grateful for the love you have shown me by placing me on this Earth with all the other things big and small. I love you God. Amen. —Tea Gonzales, St. Therese Catholic Grade School, Albuquerque, New Mexico [1]
Theologian Fr. Thomas Berry (1914-2009) was a true friend of and advocate for nature. Like Joanna Macy and many others, he saw that we are on the cusp of a new era, a new way of living that is in harmony rather than competition with nature. Berry highlighted several important elements to this shift:
Renewing Earth: From Anthropocentrism to Ecocentrism
The task of renewing Earth belongs to Earth, as the renewal of any organism [even the church] takes place from within. Yet we humans have our own special role, a leading role in the renewal, just as we had the dominant role in the devastation. We can fulfill this role, however, only if we move our basic life orientation from a dominant anthropocentrism to a dominant ecocentrism. In effecting this change, we need to listen to the voices of Earth and its multitude of living and non-living modes of expression.
We should be listening to the stars in the heavens and the sun and the moon, to the mountains and the plains, to the forests and rivers and seas that surround us, to the meadows and the flowering grasses, to the songbirds and the insects and to their music especially in the evening and the early hours of the night. We need to experience, to feel, and to see these myriad creatures all caught up in the celebration of life.
Extinction Is Forever
We especially need to hear the creatures of Earth before it is too late, before their voices are stilled forever through extinction occurring at such a rapid rate. Once gone they will never be heard again. Extinction is forever. The divine experience they communicate will never again be available to humans. A dimension of the human soul will never be activated as it might have been. None of the wonders of the human can replace what we are losing. . . . We have lost sight of the fact that these myriad creatures are revelations of the divine and inspirations to our spiritual life.
Wonder, Beauty, Intimacy
Our inner spiritual world cannot be activated without experience of the outer world of wonder for the mind, beauty for the imagination, and intimacy for the emotions.

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The Master Will Judge

By Oswald Chambers

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ… —2 Corinthians 5:10

Paul says that we must all, preachers and other people alike, “appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” But if you will learn here and now to live under the scrutiny of Christ’s pure light, your final judgment will bring you only delight in seeing the work God has done in you. Live constantly reminding yourself of the judgment seat of Christ, and walk in the knowledge of the holiness He has given you. Tolerating a wrong attitude toward another person causes you to follow the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are. One carnal judgment of another person only serves the purposes of hell in you. Bring it immediately into the light and confess, “Oh, Lord, I have been guilty there.” If you don’t, your heart will become hardened through and through. One of the penalties of sin is our acceptance of it. It is not only God who punishes for sin, but sin establishes itself in the sinner and takes its toll. No struggling or praying will enable you to stop doing certain things, and the penalty of sin is that you gradually get used to it, until you finally come to the place where you no longer even realize that it is sin. No power, except the power that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit, can change or prevent the inherent consequences of sin.

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light…” (1 John 1:7). For many of us, walking in the light means walking according to the standard we have set up for another person. The deadliest attitude of the Pharisees that we exhibit today is not hypocrisy but that which comes from unconsciously living a lie.

Kinship with All Life

March 15th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

 

Richard Rohr

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Joanna Macy vividly reconnects our seemingly separate selves with nature, both present and past:
The conventional notion of the self with which we have been raised and to which we have been conditioned by mainstream culture is being undermined. What Alan Watts [1915-1973] called “the skin-encapsulated ego” . . . is being replaced by wider constructs of identity and self-interest—by what philosopher Arne Naess [1912-2009] termed the ecological self, co-extensive with other beings and the life of our planet. It is what I like to call “the greening of the self.” . . .
Among those who are shedding these old constructs of self . . . is John Seed, director of the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia. One day . . . I asked him: “You talk about the struggle against the lumber companies and politicians to save the remaining rain forests. How do you deal with the despair?”
He replied, “I try to remember that it’s not me, John Seed, trying to protect the rain forest. Rather, I am part of the rain forest protecting itself. I am that part of the rain forest recently emerged into human thinking.” This is what I mean by the greening of the self. It involves a combining of the mystical with the pragmatic, transcending separateness, alienation, and fragmentation. It is . . . “a spiritual change,” generating a sense of profound interconnectedness with all life. . . .
. . . Unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible. . . .
By expanding our self-interest to include other beings in the body of the Earth, the ecological self also widens our window on time. It enlarges our temporal context, freeing us from identifying our goals and rewards solely in terms of our present lifetime. The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars.
Thus the greening of the self helps us to reinhabit time and our own story as life on Earth. We were present in the primal flaring forth, and in the rains that streamed down on this still-molten planet, and in the primordial seas. In our mother’s womb we remembered that journey, wearing vestigial gills and tail and fins for hands. Beneath the outer layer of our neocortex and what we learned in school, that story is in us—the story of a deep kinship with all life, bringing strengths that we never imagined. When we claim this story as our innermost sense of who we are, a gladness comes that will help us to survive.

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The Discipline of Dismay
By Oswald Chambers

As they followed they were afraid. —Mark 10:32

At the beginning of our life with Jesus Christ, we were sure we knew all there was to know about following Him. It was a delight to forsake everything else and to throw ourselves before Him in a fearless statement of love. But now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is far ahead of us and is beginning to seem different and unfamiliar— “Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed” (Mark 10:32).
There is an aspect of Jesus that chills even a disciple’s heart to its depth and makes his entire spiritual life gasp for air. This unusual Person with His face set “like a flint” (Isaiah 50:7) is walking with great determination ahead of me, and He strikes terror right through me. He no longer seems to be my Counselor and Friend and has a point of view about which I know nothing. All I can do is stand and stare at Him in amazement. At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize that there is a distance between Jesus and me and I can no longer be intimate with Him. I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely distant.
Jesus Christ had to understand fully every sin and sorrow that human beings could experience, and that is what makes Him seem unfamiliar. When we see this aspect of Him, we realize we really don’t know Him. We don’t recognize even one characteristic of His life, and we don’t know how to begin to follow Him. He is far ahead of us, a Leader who seems totally unfamiliar, and we have no friendship with Him.
The discipline of dismay is an essential lesson which a disciple must learn. The danger is that we tend to look back on our times of obedience and on our past sacrifices to God in an effort to keep our enthusiasm for Him strong (see Isaiah 50:10-11). But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy.

The Great Turning

March 14th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

The Great Turning
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

When we look down on the Earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet. It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also at the same time, looks extremely fragile. —Ron Garan, NASA Astronaut [1]
I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life. —Deuteronomy 30:19
Eco-philosopher, Earth elder, spiritual activist, and friend Joanna Macy (b. 1929) promotes a transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life-Sustaining Society. She calls it the Great Turning, a revolution of great urgency: “While the agricultural revolution took centuries, and the industrial revolution took generations, this ecological revolution has to happen within a matter of a few years.” [2] She is hopeful as she sees many participating in: “1) Actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings [holding actions]; 2) Analysis and transformation of the foundations of our common life; and 3) A fundamental shift in worldview and values.” [3]
The Center for Action and Contemplation has focused primarily on the last dimension, fostering a change in consciousness. Here’s how Joanna Macy and Molly Brown describe this crucial shift in perception and values:
It is hard to undertake the holding actions or initiatives . . . unless we are nurtured by deeply held values and ways of seeing ourselves and the world. The actions we take—and structures we build—mirror how we relate to Earth and each other. They require a shift in our perception of reality—and that shift is happening now, both as cognitive revolution and spiritual awakening. . . .
The insights and experiences that enable us to make this shift may arise from grief for our world that contradicts illusions of the separate and isolated self. Or they may arise from breakthroughs in science, such as quantum physics and systems theory. Or we may find ourselves inspired by the wisdom traditions of native peoples and mystical voices in the major religions . . . that reminds us again that our world is a sacred whole in which we have a sacred mission.
Now, in our time, these three rivers—anguish for our world, scientific breakthroughs, and ancestral teachings—flow together. From the confluence of these rivers we drink. We awaken to what we once knew: we are alive in a living Earth, the source of all we are and can achieve. Despite our conditioning by the industrial society of the last two centuries, we want to name, once again, this world as holy.
These insights and experiences are necessary to free us from the grip of the Industrial Growth Society. They offer us nobler goals and deeper pleasures. They help us redefine our wealth and our worth. The reorganization of our perceptions liberates us from illusions about what we need to own and what our place is in the order of things. [Moved] beyond tired old notions of competitive individualism, we come home to each other and our mutual belonging in the living body of Earth. [4]

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

Yielding
By Oswald Chambers

…you are that one’s slaves whom you obey… —Romans 6:16

The first thing I must be willing to admit when I begin to examine what controls and dominates me is that I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be. If I am a slave to myself, I am to blame because somewhere in the past I yielded to myself. Likewise, if I obey God I do so because at some point in my life I yielded myself to Him.
If a child gives in to selfishness, he will find it to be the most enslaving tyranny on earth. There is no power within the human soul itself that is capable of breaking the bondage of the nature created by yielding. For example, yield for one second to anything in the nature of lust, and although you may hate yourself for having yielded, you become enslaved to that thing. (Remember what lust is— “I must have it now,” whether it is the lust of the flesh or the lust of the mind.) No release or escape from it will ever come from any human power, but only through the power of redemption. You must yield yourself in utter humiliation to the only One who can break the dominating power in your life, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. “…He has anointed Me…to proclaim liberty to the captives…” (Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1).
When you yield to something, you will soon realize the tremendous control it has over you. Even though you say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” you will know you can’t. You will find that the habit absolutely dominates you because you willingly yielded to it. It is easy to sing, “He will break every fetter,” while at the same time living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. But yielding to Jesus will break every kind of slavery in any person’s life.

The Substance of God

March 13th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Many indigenous spiritualities, Franciscans, and Celts saw creation as good, as a theophany or revelation of God’s very being, just as Genesis taught. How did Christianity come to be so divorced from nature? John Philip Newell (b. 1953), a poet and scholar known for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality, traces the roots and impact of the doctrine creatio ex nihilo. He offers an alternative, still orthodox, view of creation based on the writings of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon:
Irenaeus [130-202] . . . taught that the whole of creation flows from the very “substance” of God. [1] All things carry within them the essence of the One. Irenaeus . . . signaled his concern about the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. . . . This was to become the standard of Western Christianity’s approach to creation. Creation would be viewed not as coming forth from the substance of God but as fashioned from afar by a distant Creator, made out of nothing from on high.
Irenaeus intuited that this would be a disaster, that to neutralize matter, to teach that creation does not come from holy substance, would lead to the abuse of creation. It was a convenient “truth” . . . [meaning] that the empire could do whatever it wished to matter. Matter was not holy. It had not come forth from the womb of God’s Being. Rather it was made from nothing. It was essentially devoid of sacred energy. So, every imperial mind could ravage the earth’s resources with impunity. It could disparage the rights of creatures and subordinate the physical well-being of its subjects. Religion had become the accomplice of the state’s subordination of the earth. It had sanctioned the separation of spirit and matter.
Irenaeus . . . passionately taught that the substance of the earth and its creatures carries within itself the life of the Holy One. God, he said, is both “above us all and in us all.” [2] God is both transcendent and immanent. And the work of Jesus, he taught, was not to save us from our nature but to restore us to our nature and to bring us back into relationship with the deepest sound within creation. In his commentary on the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel, in which all things are described as spoken into being by God, Irenaeus sees Jesus not as speaking a new word but as uttering again the first word, the sound at the beginning and the heart of life. He describes Jesus as “recapitulating” the original work of the Creator, as articulating again what we have forgotten and what needs to be repeated, the Sound from which all life has come. [3] Jesus re-sounds the beginning. He resounds with what is deepest in the matter of the universe.
. . . The Christ story is the universe story. The birth of the divine-human child is a revelation, a lifting of the veil to show us that all life has been conceived by the Spirit in the womb of the universe, that we are all divine-human creatures, that everything that has being in the universe carries within itself the sacredness of Spirit.

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God’s Total Surrender to Us

By Oswald Chambers

For God so loved the world that He gave… —John 3:16
 Salvation does not mean merely deliverance from sin or the experience of personal holiness. The salvation which comes from God means being completely delivered from myself, and being placed into perfect union with Him. When I think of my salvation experience, I think of being delivered from sin and gaining personal holiness. But salvation is so much more! It means that the Spirit of God has brought me into intimate contact with the true Person of God Himself. And as I am caught up into total surrender to God, I become thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself.

To say that we are called to preach holiness or sanctification is to miss the main point. We are called to proclaim Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). The fact that He saves from sin and makes us holy is actually part of the effect of His wonderful and total surrender to us.

If we are truly surrendered, we will never be aware of our own efforts to remain surrendered. Our entire life will be consumed with the One to whom we surrender. Beware of talking about surrender if you know nothing about it. In fact, you will never know anything about it until you understand that John 3:16 means that God completely and absolutely gave Himself to us. In our surrender, we must give ourselves to God in the same way He gave Himself for us— totally, unconditionally, and without reservation. The consequences and circumstances resulting from our surrender will never even enter our mind, because our life will be totally consumed with Him.

Nature as a Mirror of God

March 12th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Nature as a Mirror of God
Monday, March 12, 2018

Long ago, St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), named a Doctor of the Church in 2012, communicated creation spirituality through music, art, poetry, medicine, gardening, and reflections on nature. She wrote in her famous book, Scivias:
You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you. [1]

This is key to understanding Hildegard and is very similar to Teresa of Ávila’s understanding of the soul. Without using the word, Hildegard recognized that the human person is a microcosm with a natural affinity for or resonance with its macrocosm, which many call God. Our little world reflects the big world. The key word here is resonance. Contemplative prayer allows your mind to resonate with what is visible and right in front of you. Contemplation erases the separateness between the seer and the seen.
Hildegard often used the word viriditas, the greening of things from within, similar to what we now call photosynthesis. She recognized a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform it into energy and life. She also saw an inherent connection between the physical world and the divine Presence. This connection translates into energy that is the soul and seed of everything, an inner voice calling you to “Become who you are; become all that you are.” This is our “life wish” or what Carl Jung called the “whole-making spirit.”
Hildegard is a wonderful example of someone who lives safely inside an entire cosmology, a universe where the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner, where the individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. Hildegard said, “O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which every thing that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” [2] It is truly a Trinitarian universe, with all things whirling toward one another: from orbits, to gravity, to ecosystems, to sexuality.
In another place, Hildegard has God saying:
I have created mirrors in which I consider all the wonders of my originality which will never cease. [3]

Indeed, for Hildegard nature was a mirror for the soul and for God. This mirroring changes how we see and experience reality. Later, Bonaventure (1217-1274) wrote: “In the soul’s journey to God we must present to ourselves the whole material world as the first mirror through which we may pass over to the Supreme [Artisan].” [4] The Dominican Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) said the same: “If humankind could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.” [5]
Nature is not a mere scenic backdrop so humans can take over the stage. Creation is in fact a full participant in human transformation, since the outer world is absolutely needed to mirror the true inner world. There are not just two sacraments, or even seven; the whole world is a sacrament!

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Total Surrender
By Oswald Chambers

Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” —Mark 10:28

Our Lord replies to this statement of Peter by saying that this surrender is “for My sake and the gospel’s” (Mark 10:29). It was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves would get out of it. Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. For example, “I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.” Being delivered from sin and being made holy are the result of being right with God, but surrender resulting from this kind of thinking is certainly not the true nature of Christianity. Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ‘This is what God has done for me.’ ” Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.
Where does Jesus Christ figure in when we have a concern about our natural relationships? Most of us will desert Him with this excuse— “Yes, Lord, I heard you call me, but my family needs me and I have my own interests. I just can’t go any further” (see Luke 9:57-62). “Then,” Jesus says, “you ‘cannot be My disciple’ ” (see Luke 14:26-33).
True surrender will always go beyond natural devotion. If we will only give up, God will surrender Himself to embrace all those around us and will meet their needs, which were created by our surrender. Beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God. Most of us have only a vision of what this really means, but have never truly experienced it.

Living Peacefully on Earth

March 9th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Living Peacefully on Earth
Friday, March 9, 2018

To live nonviolently—both toward humans and nature—requires that we recognize God’s image in each living thing. We cannot be violent toward someone or something when we see the divine in them. My friend and nonviolent activist John Dear recently published a new book, They Will Inherit the Earth, from which I’d like to share today.
Over the decades, I have witnessed the destruction we humans have done to Mother Earth and her creatures. I’ve read about catastrophic climate change and experienced the changes—the droughts, the strange weather, the extreme fires and tornadoes and rainfall. . . . I grieve for Mother Earth and the creatures who die because of our systemic greed, violence, and destructive habits. But I never made or felt the connection between my vision of nonviolence and the ongoing destruction of Mother Earth. Until now. . . .
“Blessed are the meek,” Jesus says in the Beatitudes. Thomas Merton wrote that “meekness” is the biblical word for nonviolence. “Blessed are the nonviolent,” Jesus is saying. . . . “They will inherit the earth.” . . . A life of nonviolence leads to oneness with creation and her creatures.
A life of violence, of course, leads to an abrupt discord with creation. In a time of permanent warfare, nuclear weapons, and catastrophic climate change, the message couldn’t be clearer. The God of peace, the nonviolent Jesus, and his Holy Spirit call us to practice nonviolence. In that way, we’ll renounce and stop our environmental destruction, tend our Garden of Eden together, and restore creation to its rightful peace. In the process, we will discover peace with one another and all the creatures. . . .
This is the journey we are all called to live, to make the connection between active nonviolence and oneness with creation, so that we all might dwell peacefully in this paradise. . . . I [see] not just the vision of peace and nonviolence, but the vision of a new creation, where we all live as one in peace with one another, Mother Earth and her glorious creatures. It’s that vision of peace, nonviolence, and the new creation, the vision of the promised land before us, the practice of proactive nonviolence, that offers a way out of environmental destruction, as well as permanent war, corporate greed, systemic racism, and extreme poverty.
All we have to do is open our eyes to the reality of creation before us, to be present to it, to take it in and honor it, and welcome its gift of peace—and do so within the boundaries of nonviolence. In that present moment of peace, a new creation is offered to us once again.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

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Turning Back or Walking with Jesus?
By Oswald Chambers

Do you also want to go away? —John 6:67
What a penetrating question! Our Lord’s words often hit home for us when He speaks in the simplest way. In spite of the fact that we know who Jesus is, He asks, “Do you also want to go away?” We must continually maintain an adventurous attitude toward Him, despite any potential personal risk.
“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66). They turned back from walking with Jesus; not into sin, but away from Him. Many people today are pouring their lives out and working for Jesus Christ, but are not really walking with Him. One thing God constantly requires of us is a oneness with Jesus Christ. After being set apart through sanctification, we should discipline our lives spiritually to maintain this intimate oneness. When God gives you a clear determination of His will for you, all your striving to maintain that relationship by some particular method is completely unnecessary. All that is required is to live a natural life of absolute dependence on Jesus Christ. Never try to live your life with God in any other way than His way. And His way means absolute devotion to Him. Showing no concern for the uncertainties that lie ahead is the secret of walking with Jesus.
Peter saw in Jesus only someone who could minister salvation to him and to the world. But our Lord wants us to be fellow laborers with Him.
In John 6:70 Jesus lovingly reminded Peter that he was chosen to go with Him. And each of us must answer this question for ourselves and no one else: “Do you also want to go away?”

Created to Love

March 8th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Created to Love

Thursday, March 8, 2018

In the fourth century, St. Augustine (354-430), an official “Doctor of the Church” (meaning he can be reliably trusted) in both Eastern and Western churches, said, “the church consists in the state of communion of the whole world.” [1] What an amazing and inclusive line, based on his Trinitarian theology (which lagged in later centuries). Wherever we are connected, in right relationship—you might say “in love”—there is the life of God flowing freely, there is the authentic image or body of God revealed. This body is more a living organism than any formal organization, denomination, or church group. As Jesus puts it, “Do not believe those who say, ‘Look here! or Look there!’” (Luke 17:23) because the Reign of God can never be contained or fully localized in one place.
Non-human creation is invariably obedient and loyal to its destiny. Animals and plants seem to excitedly take their small place in the “circle of life,” in the balance of nature, in the dance of complete interdependence. It is only we humans who have resisted our place in “the one great act of giving birth” (see Romans 8:22), even though we had the role of consciousness. Instead, we have been largely unconscious, senselessly participating in the death of our own and other species. We are, by far, the most destructive of any animal. As St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179, also a Doctor of the Church) writes:
Human beings alone are capable of disobeying God’s laws, because they try to be wiser than God. . . . Other creatures fulfill the commandments of God; they honor [God’s] laws. . . . But human beings rebel against those laws, defying them in word and action. And in doing so they inflict terrible cruelty on the rest of God’s creation. [2]
In poetry, Gerard Manley Hopkins proudly affirms “each mortal thing” as having a soul, not just humans.
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
. . . myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came. [3]
Jesus taught that if we would “first seek God’s Reign” (Matthew 6:33), and obey his command to “love God and love one another” (Matthew 22:37-40), all the rest would take care of itself. We would no longer defy the laws of nature but seek to live in harmony and sustainability with Earth and all her creatures. This radical lifestyle demands a deep sense of the inherent dignity of all things. We cannot pick and choose who has inherent dignity and who does not.
We must all firmly know that grace is inherent to creation, not an occasional additive. God’s goodness—not Adam’s sin nor some catastrophic Armageddon—has the first and final word. We thus begin in hope and end in hope, without which history has no purpose, motive, or goal—and love comes with great difficulty.

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The Surrendered Life
By Oswald Chambers

I have been crucified with Christ… —Galatians 2:20

To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else. The first thing we must surrender is all of our pretense or deceit. What our Lord wants us to present to Him is not our goodness, honesty, or our efforts to do better, but real solid sin. Actually, that is all He can take from us. And what He gives us in exchange for our sin is real solid righteousness. But we must surrender all pretense that we are anything, and give up all our claims of even being worthy of God’s consideration.
Once we have done that, the Spirit of God will show us what we need to surrender next. Along each step of this process, we will have to give up our claims to our rights to ourselves. Are we willing to surrender our grasp on all that we possess, our desires, and everything else in our lives? Are we ready to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ?
We will suffer a sharp painful disillusionment before we fully surrender. When people really see themselves as the Lord sees them, it is not the terribly offensive sins of the flesh that shock them, but the awful nature of the pride of their own hearts opposing Jesus Christ. When they see themselves in the light of the Lord, the shame, horror, and desperate conviction hit home for them.
If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.

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